Politics

Sessions Clarifies Russia Testimony to Senate Committee

AG says he answered questions at confirmation hearing honestly

Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified at his confirmation hearing in January that he “did not have communications with the Russians.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave a succinct answer to the Senate on Monday to the questions swirling about his testimony that he did not communicate with Russians during the campaign: “My answer was correct.”

The former Alabama senator, an adviser to the Trump campaign, testified under oath in January at his confirmation hearing that he “did not have communications with the Russians” when asked a question about Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, and he reiterated that answer in a response to a written question.

But Sessions did meet with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, in September at his Senate office — a meeting he confirmed only after it was reported in the media last week. Sessions announced March 2 that he will recuse himself from any investigation related to the 2016 presidential election and possible Russian involvement.

In a letter Monday to the Senate Judiciary Committee supplementing his testimony, Sessions defended the answer and rejected the idea that he should have corrected his Jan. 10 testimony later.

Sessions wrote that the questions raised— including one from Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken — were about communications between the Russians and the Trump campaign. The meeting with Kislyak was not about the campaign, he wrote.

“I do not recall any discussion with the Russian ambassador, or any other representative of the Russian government, regarding the political campaign on these occasions or any other occasions,” Sessions wrote in the letter.

Sessions said he was surprised by the allegations in the question from Franken. The Minnesota senator, after some introduction, asked Sessions what he would do if he were faced with “evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign.”

Sessions responded at the time, in part: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

Sessions said in his Monday letter that he answered the question honestly. “I did not mention communications I had had with the Russian ambassador over the years because the question did not ask about them,” he wrote.

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee called for Sessions to appear before the panel to answer questions “about his false statements,” writing in a letter that the responses to questions “were, at best, incomplete and misleading.”

Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa said there are no plans to ask Sessions to come before the committee before an annual oversight hearing of the Justice Department, as is customary.

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